Books & Zines

Volunteering, Activism, Support: an interview with Prejudice Me Records

Right after receiving the press release for their recent 5th anniversary compilation tape & zine called “I Can Already Smell Your Unhappyness” and learning about the amazing work of activists Fran and Zoe, I instantly knew I had to dive deeper into their passionate work and arrange an interview on their label Prejudice Me Records. Any profits from their releases go to various grass roots charities and groups and apart from running the strictly music related project, they are involved with different causes, increasingly devoting their lives to service, advocacy, and creative activism that provide an interesting example of effective altruism. I got the chance to talk to this inspiring duo this past Winter and ask them about how you can take your passion and turn it into action. Read below and get inspired.

“I Can Already Smell Your Unhappyness”, the recent 16 track tape compilation from Prejudice Me Records was released in December 2016 coinciding with the Manchester and Salford Anarchist Bookfair. It included a 40 page zine with band interviews and guest recipes from vegan cookery zines such as Veganslime and Bakabush plus a guest article from the awesome Sticky Sounds zine as well as Artwork from Drop, Dan Hughes, Jahoer and Will Setchell. The compilation features exclusive tracks by TROPHIES, RIVERS RUN DRY and XKATEXMOSHX plus tracks by EAGLEHASLANDED, BURNT CROSS, SHAMELESS, HOLIDAY, THIS ENDS HERE, INDOCTRINATE, LAWINE, ATTERKOP, TOUT SUITE, PROLEFEED, MANIFEST, SIX-SCORE and OAKEN.

Hey Fran, hi Zoe! How are you? How’s Manchester doing this warm and smogged winter?

Hi Karol, we’re both really good thank you! Manchester is as usual cold and miserable weather-wise but still lots of fun stuff going on.

Awesome! Let’s talk about the fun stuff then. You reached out to IDIOTEQ because of your 5 year anniversary compilation and special zine release, but I’d like to start off with a little introduction to your project. How did you make Prejudice Me Records work for the first time and how do you split your time between this undertaking and perhaps more involvements in music and your regular stuff? Give us some details on your background. When did you realize the one time project can become a lot more and you want to expand Prejudice Me?

We initially were only going to release one record, a CD-R compilation called ‘Smells Like Community Spirit’ which was a benefit for a group called the Royal Park Community Consortium (RPCC) who were trying to turn a disused school into a community hub, round the corner from where we lived in Leeds. (Unfortunately the council won, the school got torn down and the space will probably be used to build a supermarket or student flats or something…..)

However, we loved putting the record together and thought about setting up a little distro to take round to local gigs to raise extra money for the RPCC . Then we got the idea to start releasing records, trading with other distros and now we have hardly any spare time or space left in our flat – but we love doing it and wouldn’t have it any other way!

We always started with the ethos that music should be affordable to everyone, so we keep prices as low as possible (for our own releases and the things we stock in the distro). Also, we don’t make any money from the label/distro and all of the profits are donated to community groups, radical causes and organisations that need a little extra help. Although we now realise that most DIY record labels put the money they make into future projects because that makes more sense….

You share your profits and donate to community groups and all kinds of good causes. Apart from the start-up cause, can you expound more on the idea and tell about the stories of some of the most important helps and donations you’ve participated in?

As well as the RPCC, we also raised money and were involved with Manchester Social Centre, a co-op that started up a social centre called Subrosa in South Manchester. Unfortunately Subrosa closed down a couple of years ago, but we hope there’ll be a new space in the area soon. Autonomous DIY spaces are really important, so we like to support them however we can. Also, whenever we have a stall at a benefit gig, we always give the profit we make on the night to whoever the benefit’s for.

Alright, so let’s learn about this amazing anniversary package. A part of it is a 40 page zine with some quality interviews, articles, and vegan recipes. Why and how did zine making develop as a medium of your choice?

Well, we love tapes but you don’t get much room in the sleeves for liner notes,contact info and stuff about the bands so we thought it would be cool if we put a little zine together so we can promote the bands that are featured on the tape. We also wanted to do the guest articles as we’re both vegan and love eating (Tom Veganslime and Claire Bakabush are both friends of ours so we thought it would be nice to get them to feature some guest recipes) and Vicky (Sticky Sounds) has always been really supportive and produces, in our opinion, one of the best zines in the UK.

The interviews came about so people can learn a bit more about the bands if they’re not too familiar with them but we didn’t want it to be too interview heavy, so that’s why we asked TOUT SUITE to do their ‘Rice n’ Three Tour of Manchester’. Also, This Ends Here wrote their guide to music on tour and Atterkop compiled a list of their top ten fizzy pops (soft drinks/sodas). It took a lot longer than we thought it would to make the zine (and tapes!), but we’re actually really impressed with how it turned out as neither of us have had any experience creatively with zines before, but we do love reading them.

Cool! Can you tell us more about the artists that you picked for this compilation? Was it comprised of all of the bands you’ve been working with?

Yeah, all the bands are ones we’ve worked with before. We really wanted to make it kind of like a history of the label, that’s why we have bands we’ve worked with from the very beginning like BURNT CROSS and RIVERS RUN DRY right through to bands we’ve only just started helping to release records by such as TOUT SUITE, SIX-SCORE and SHAMELESS. We would have liked to have all the bands we’ve helped out on it but you only get so much room on tapes!

How do these artists relate to each other in the context of your core ethics and the genral approach to running a label?

We’ve always had a brilliant relationship with all the bands we work with, so it’s no surprise we share a lot of the same ethics and political opinions. Although some of the bands we know personally and others we’ve only spoken to online, we think that we’re all friends on some level, so we try to support each other the best we can. That’s basically the DIY spirit in a nutshell! Thankfully we’ve had no complaints so far and the bands we work with understand that we’re not the most professional-minded when it comes to the label and we work on a strictly DIY basis. For example, the recent compilation and the Manifest tapes were all dubbed on our kitchen table!

Can you expand on how your stance on social and political issues today connect with your DIY label practice?

Our politics kind of bleed into everything we do for the label. Whether that’s keeping prices as low as possible to make sure our records are accessible to everyone, refusing to carry any right wing releases in the distro, mutual co-operation with other labels/distros through trades, co-op releases etc. and even just chatting to people who happen to stop by our stall to talk music, politics, veganism, weather or whatever they like!

Alright, so what else? Can you divulge anything about what’s coming up next to Prejudice Me Records?

Since we put out the comp out in December we’ve had a few great new records out, one being the latest CHILD MEADOW 12″ ‘It Hurts’, the second a split 12″ between THIS ENDS HERE and CONQUEROR WORM and the third by HOLIDAY (their first LP ‘California Steamin’). In the next few months we’ll have new records out by BURNT CROSS (their final 12″ which will be a compilation of their last few EPs called ‘Wheels of Misfortune’) and TOUT SUITE‘s first 7″ EP. We also have a few more records in the works that are a bit too fresh to announce just yet but people should get very excited!

Awesome! Apart from music, what else do you expect from 2017?

There a quite a few awesome festivals in the UK coming up over the next few months like Manchester Punk Festival, 0161 Festival, Common Ground and Never Fall Into Silence Fest. We want to hit up a couple of Euro fests as well if we get a chance, but nothing’s set in stone. We’re also hoping to catch up with SIX-SCORE and INDOCTRINATE whilst they’re in the UK later in the year.

Haha, and apart from music? ;)

To be honest, not really that much! Just working, hanging out with friends and eating/drinking far more than is really necessary….

Fair enough. Do you mind sharing what you do for a living?

Fran works for a drug and alcohol recovery service and Zoe works in the campaigns team for a vegetarian charity.

How does it feel to be able to realize that your work has impacted real problems, the communities you serve, and actually changes the world around you? I mean, many many people contemplate leaving their corporate jobs to start more meaningful activities, but their dreams are often suppressed by the overwhelming thought of how their bills are going to get paid. What hints would you give those who’s not sure where and how to start helping others?

Fran – I’ve only worked in the addiction recovery sector for a few months (although it seems like I’ve been there forever sometimes!). I used to be a manager for a big chain health food store in the UK and I just felt like I’d had enough taking loads of shit from people and I had wanted to do something in the drug and alcohol recovery field for some time. Luckily the service I work for were recruiting at the time I left so I guess it was just luck really! I did have to take a huge cut in my pay, but it’s so worthwhile doing something I actually give a shit about for a living. As I’m not really motivated by money (something which practically everyone I’ve ever worked for can’t seem to comprehend!) it isn’t that big of a deal as long as we can still cover rent and bills.

I couldn’t really give any hints or tips on how to get paid jobs in areas where you help other people, but the best place to start is to volunteer for something that you care about. We’ve met loads of great people volunteering for different groups, who we never would have met if we’d of insulated ourselves in the punk/hardcore world. Plus community and social care organisations always bite volunteer’s hands off for help, even if it’s only for a few hours at the weekend. It can also be a great way to learn new skills and build confidence. Get out there and see what’s going on in your neighbourhood – there might be squats and Food Not Bombs organisations that need help or even domestic abuse shelters and care homes that could really use the help. The list is endless if you have the passion (and time) for it.

Zoe: Those are some difficult questions to answer! Firstly, I know that we’re both really lucky to have jobs that we’re passionate about. As with many jobs, not just in the charity sector, it can be difficult to get a foot in the door if you don’t have any experience working within the relevant field – so I totally agree with Fran about volunteering for organisations that you care about, if you have the time and energy. In the UK there are lots of charity job websites which list paid and voluntary positions (local sites tend to be the most useful) and you can sign up for their daily/weekly newsletters and job alerts. I’d just encourage people to do what they want and what makes them happy.

So what would make you happy in regarding these activities? What do you expect to accomplish in 2017?

We’d like to get the distro out to more shows and help raise some money for both new and established groups. We honestly don’t know what 2017 is going to throw at us, even though we’re already a quarter of the way through! We’d just be happy to meet lots of awesome people and carry on releasing great records.

Alright, thanks a lot for your time! Feel free to add your final words. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks!

No worries! Thanks for giving us the opportunity to talk about the comp and other stuff. If anyone reading this wants to contact us for trades or anything at all, please get in touch! (prejudice_me@yahoo.co.uk).

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